At the Financial Mail, we love a bit of a wander through a museum or art gallery. But here’s an admission: we really, really like their gift shops. Find a good one, and you’ve hit the jackpot of art, books, fashion and tchotchkes. Don’t tell anyone, but we could easily visit the shops and skip the exhibits.
Here are museum and gallery gift stores that set the benchmark. They display beautiful and covetable things you can actually buy — and we’re not just talking fridge magnets.
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The shop is a jewel box of delights, on steroids. It’s situated smack bang in the middle of the vast Knightsbridge museum, and all the products are inspired by the V&A’s collections. So if you fancy an Art Deco pavé brooch inspired by an exhibition on ocean liners, or a William Morris-patterned tea tray, you’ll find them there. You may not know that you need either, but now you think of it, you definitely do, right?
Cromwell Road, Knightsbridge, London; visit vam.ac.uk
Librairie-Boutique du Musée National Picasso, Paris
Two years ago, the Musée Picasso opened a hybrid between a concept store and a gift shop to complement its offering of books and Picasso-themed items.
Designed to resemble the artist’s studio, the three-room shop offers a lovely selection of jewellery, mugs and bowls, and, of course, Picasso-related paraphernalia. The shop also carries treats from famed chocolatier Petits Carreaux de Paris.
4 Rue de Thorigny, Paris; visit museepicassoparis.fr/en
American Museum of Natural History, New York
Plan a good hour — or three — for this one. As one of the biggest museums in the world, it boasts five stores. And before you think it — this one isn’t just for kids or geeks. You can buy home décor, jewellery and the cheekiest T-shirts.
Cool fact: Lucy, the skeleton exhibited in the Hall of Human Origins, is named after a Beatles song.
Central Park West & 79th Street, New York; visit amnh.org
Stedelijk Museum Store, Amsterdam
The Dutch know design, as is evident from this vast store, which sits below the "bath tub" part of this contemporary museum.
Once you’ve checked out the modern art and the archive of some of the finest design pieces in the world, head to the store. There, you can browse row upon row of books on everyone from Hella Jongerius to Marlene Dumas. You’ll also find big-ticket ceramics (tricky as carry-on luggage but, trust us, not impossible), stylish kids’ toys, art prints and more, so there’s something for everyone.
Museumplein 10, Amsterdam; visit stedelijk.nl